What is Fluorspar and Where Do I Use It?
- Fluorspar is the commercial name for the naturally occurring mineral fluorite, composed of calcium and fluorine (CaF2).
- Fluorspar is the predominant commercial source for the chemical element fluorine.
- Fluorine is a non-metallic element and the lightest of the halogens and therefore largely irreplaceable in its use.
- There are two principal commercial grades of fluorspar: Metallurgical grade (60-96% CaF2); and acid grade (+97% CaF2).
- Metallurgical grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 40-45% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
- Steel production – used as a flux to lower the melting temperature and increase the chemical reactivity to help the absorption and removal of sulphur, phosphorus, carbon and other impurities in the slag;
- Cement – used as a flux to speed up the calcination process and enables the kiln to operate at lower temperatures.
- Acid grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 55-60% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
- Aluminium production – used to produce aluminium fluoride (ALF3) which acts as a flux to lower the bath temperature in the manufacture of aluminium;
- Manufacture of hydrofluoric acid (HF) – the primary source of all fluorochemicals (the single largest consumer of fluorspar), a wide range of applications include: Fluorocarbons e.g. refrigerant gases, propellants, etc; Metallurgical industry (extraction, manufacture and processing); Petrochemical catalysts; Electrical and electronic appliances; Lithium batteries; and Pharmaceuticals, polymers and agrochemicals.
Where is Fluorspar Produced and Consumed?
- World production of fluorspar: 6.0Mt – 6.5Mt per year
- Major producing regions: China (>50% of the world’s production); Mexico; Mongolia/CIS; Vietnam and South Africa;
- Major consuming regions (highest to lowest): China; Europe; North America; and Russia/CIS.
Specific Issues for Fluorspar
- China produces >50% of the world’s fluorspar. No large scale commercial alternative
- Chinese exports have declined substantially since 2000 – internal demand and production/export restrictions.
- China may become a net importer in the future.
- North America and Europe are the largest acid-spar consumers outside China, all net importers – potential risk to long term security of supply.
Source: Tertiary, Industrial Minerals Magazine, US Geological Survey, Roskill, UN Comtrade, CRU, Eurofluor